How old should children be to babysit other children?

According to Brownsville police you have to be 15 years or older to take care of children without adult supervision.

However the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said it TMs not so much about the age, rather if the one in charge is mature and mentally capable of caring for children.

Nationwide, babysitting is the first job many take on, and they may start while they're teenagers.

Questions about the appropriate age to be babysitting without adult supervision have been raised because of a recent case out of Brownsville.

Easter Sunday, police arrested three adults for leaving a 14-year-old in charge of five children for about an hour.

The youngest child was 3-months-old.

The 14-year-old in charge of all the 6 kids, except the 14-year-old was already asleep by the time that these people left." Sgt. JJ Trevio with the Brownsville Police Department said. "So, she wasn't even aware that she was taking care of these kids."

Moms from the Brownsville area agree with Trevio.

A lot of minors left under the care of one minor, any accident could happen, Brownsville mother Lorena Herrera said.

Mayra Alarcon is a mother of four, and she says she will not let her oldest babysit until she is 18- years-old.

It is not right to leave children with a minor, she said.

John Lennan with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says the main concern is those under 15 years of age may not be able to handle certain situations.

He says incidents like the one in Brownsville are classified as neglectful supervision.

"Statewide there has been an increase in the last five years in the number of cases that were validated for neglectful supervision, Lennan said.

Neglectful supervision is placing a child in a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child TMs level of maturity, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Cameron County alone had 1,306 confirmed cases of neglectful supervision in 2013, and just last month there were 95 cases.

Lennan says there is not a specific or 'right' age to let a minor babysit.

He says you need to consider the factors below before letting your child babysit other children:

  • The age, emotional maturity, and capability of your child or children.,--
  • Is the home safe for a child of that age?
  • Is the neighborhood safe or are there special hazards or risks?
  • What is your child's ability to respond to illness, fire, weather, or other emergencies?
  • Does your child have a mental, physical, or medical disability?
  • Will your child know where you are and how to reach you or another responsible adult?
  • How many children are being left unsupervised?,--
  • How long will they be left alone and how often?
  • How old do my kids need to be before I can leave them at home alone?

However when in doubt, plan ahead.

"You need to plan, pre-plan, make arrangements with a grandparent with family with appropriate friends to have those folks in place so that, when the situation arises that you need a caretaker, you've already made those arrangements and it TMs not something you are having to do on an emergency basis," Lennan said.

Regarding the Brownsville case, child protective services did temporarily remove all 6 kids from the home. They are now with other family members.

"Obviously you cannot leave a 14-year-old in charge of anyone because it TMs not legal," Trevino said.